Should councillors and council staff park for free in St Albans city centre?
PUBLISHED: 13:14 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:57 23 January 2018
Should all 350 council workers be entitled to free parking in the city centre?
The Herts Ad can reveal that officers and councillors at St Albans district council (SADC) can park in the Civic Centre car park on Bricket Road for free when on council business - costing thousands of pounds in potential revenue.
But other employees working in the city centre are forced to pay for the privilege of parking.
The Civic Centre car park was originally a private space exclusively for council employees, but was opened up to the public in 2014.
There are numerous other car parks in the centre, some managed by National Car Parks (NCP) on behalf of SADC and some not under its jurisdiction.
Parking charges for all the car parks vary widely, from 70p for 30 minutes to £10.90 for six or more hours.
In the Civic Centre drivers have to pay £3.30 for up to three hours on Monday to Friday between 7.30am and 6.30pm. After 6.30pm it is free for everyone.
Business owner Nadya Giffen, who previously led a campaign against Sunday parking charges, described it as disgusting and unfair: “I run a business, we pay our business rates, and what do they contribute [to the city centre]? Nothing. We pay for everything and they get it for free. The councillors should have to pay for their parking if we have to pay, or give business owners some concessions.
“I want to change it to be fair and affordable for everyone.”
She said charges are discouraging people from shopping in St Albans: “Why would people come here when they can park for an hour for free in a shopping centre and where they can get everything in one place?
“I have got kids and I am not going to come into town to struggle to find a car parking space and pay through the nose when I can take my son somewhere else.”
She asked: “What is that [parking] money going on?”
St Albans Business Improvement District (BID) manager Helen Burridge said historic St Albans faces challenges in the modern world: “Access to easy parking is often used to help incentivise getting the right employees working in a city centre which in turn contributes to our local economy. Many of our businesses struggle to provide car parking for their employees due to cost and availability of spaces.
“We would like to reduce the number of employees needing to park in the city centre: the benefits would include freeing up spaces for shoppers, reducing congestion and reducing air pollution. However, to achieve all of this, we need viable alternatives to personal cars.
“BID is looking at a number of options including more reliable and convenient bus routes, car-sharing schemes and park-and-ride options for business users.”
Head of Corporate Services at SADC Simonne deVall said the Civic Centre car park was initially opened to the public because head counts had decreased and staff were using more green forms of travel, which “resulted in less pressure on spaces”.
“A decision was taken in 2014 to open up the car park to the public from 10am on weekdays so the spare capacity could be taken up. It is also open at weekends when the civic offices are little used with charges being the same as other city centre car parks.
“Like many organisations, we need to provide car parking to our staff such as planners, surveyors and housing officers as they are in and out the office throughout their working week. They regularly make journeys by car for meetings, inspections and site visits.
“We also need to attract talented staff from all over Hertfordshire and beyond. It would be harder to do so if we did not offer car parking as part of our recruitment package.”
She noted that charities Citizens Advice and Community Central also have some parking permits for their workers.
We want to know what you think about car parking in the city centre? Should council staff have a free ride? Are prices too expensive?
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